MOUNTAIN R

Jacques Jouet, Author, Brian Evenson, Translator , trans. from the French by Brian Evenson. Dalkey Archive $12.95 (143p) ISBN 978-1-56478-330-1

A novel written entirely in dialogue, without conventional punctuation or a single traditionally described physical scene: is this an exercise in pseudo-intellectual torture? Amazingly, not at all. Jouet's short satirical novel is an innovative melding of genres—part play and part novella—that entirely succeeds in roping the reader in despite its unconventional structure. The book unfolds in three parts, similar to the acts of a play. Set in a fictional republic, it tells the story of government project Mountain R. The book opens with a speech by the "President of the Republican Council," who appears, full of rhetorical swagger, expounding the virtues of his new and ludicrous pet project ("our capital looks like a flat-chested girl... but we are going to alter her"). The idea: build a 1,500-meter-high mountain to fix the region's financial and social woes. But the scheme is not so simple, and soon it begins to unravel. There are coverups, payola, forced labor, unsafe lodging given to exploited foreign workers, prostitution rings and murders. Some of the corruption is revealed by Mr. Muratore, a former senior construction chief on Mountain R, during a long conversation with his daughter. But Muratore reveals himself as diabolical by day's end, and the third section of the novel begins with the trial of those involved in the Mountain R fiasco. The prime witness is writer Stéphane, who set out to write a novel based on the project. Jouet occasionally overburdens his allegory, but this is an invigorating read—a novella of ideas that displays a nimble use of language and wit, and percolates with intellectual and creative energy. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 02/02/2004
Release date: 02/01/2004
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